The No. 2 Oregon Ducks (10-0, 7-0) return to Autzen Stadium this weekend looking to clinch the Pac-12 North Division title for the second consecutive season. Each week the stakes get higher and this week is no different as the Ducks face No. 13 Stanford (6-1, 8-2) in a contest that will have major implications in the BCS National Championship race.
Stanford comes into the game off of a hard fought 27-23 home victory over Oregon State. The Cardinal possess a solid offensive line that works to chew up yards and time of possession. The line had to be rebuilt after losing Jonathan Martin and David Decastro to the NFL after last season. The offense has been inconsistent at times, though, having also lost the overall number one draft pick from last season, Andrew Luck.
Oregon comes into the game fresh off of a dominating 59-17 victory on the road at Cal last week. Determined to take away the Oregon rushing attack, Cal forced Marcus Mariota to beat them which he did as he stepped up to throw for 377 yards and 6 touchdowns in the lopsided victory.
Today we continue our series looking at the match-ups on each side of the ball with our focus on the offense of both teams.
Stanford: The Cardinal changed up their starter at quarterback last weekend against the Beavers using a more mobile Kevin Hogan (6-4, 224) the redshirt freshman. Hogan has appeared in six games this season, mostly as the running threat at the quarterback position prior to his start last weekend. Last week Hogan completed 22 of 29 passes for 254 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. More importantly, Hogan provided a little better threat with his feet carrying the ball 11 times for 49 yards. For the year, Hogan has completed 41 of 53 passes for 447 yards with 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Prior to last week Josh Nunes (6-4, 225), a redshirt junior, had started every game this season. If called on Nunes has been somewhat inconsistent this season completing just 52.8 percent of his passes on 124 completions in 235 attempts for 1643 yards with 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
Oregon: After a brilliant performance against USC, Marcus Mariota (6-4, 211) played even better against a Cal Bears team determined to make the Ducks win on the arm of its quarterback and Mariota did not disappoint. After throwing for a school record tying 6 touchdowns last weekend, Mariota enters this week as the nations pass efficiency leader having completed 180 of 251 attempts for 2164 yards and 28 touchdowns against just 5 interceptions. Mariota is a dual threat and has done an outstanding job when needed carrying the ball 78 times for 516 yards this season.
Behind Mariota will be Bryan Bennett (6-3, 204). Bennett has one start to his credit coming against Colorado last season. This year, playing a back-up to Mariota, Bennett has completed 20 of 37 passes for 211 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Bennett is dangerous with his feet as well having accumulated 38 carries for 167 yards and 6 rushing touchdowns in his seven appearances.
Hogan showed a lot of promise last weekend, but he had the luxury of playing at home and still threw 2 interceptions. He has not had a great deal of experience. As much as was made about Mariota not facing any adversity on the road or a hostile crowd, that can be said as well about Hogan. His inexperience showed against Oregon State at home and this week will be considerably more difficult. Mariota has shown that nothing seems to rattle him and has a clear advantage here.
Stanford: The Cardinal have made their name as a power football team over the last several seasons. Stanford uses a lot of tight ends and checks down to running backs a lot in their passing game. As a result, the wide receivers are not as utilized as much as other teams. Drew Terrell (5-11, 180), a senior this season, leads the wide receivers with 23 receptions for 338 yards and 2 touchdowns. Playing behind him will be Kelsey Young (5-10, 195) a redshirt freshman with just 6 catches for 38 yards.
Starting opposite of Terrell is Ty Montgomery (6-2, 212) a true sophomore who ranks just behind Terrell with 20 receptions for 178 yards. Montgomery has yet to reach the end zone this season. The primary back up at the wide receiver position is Jamal Rashad Patterson (6-3, 208) a senior with 11 catches for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Oregon: Starting at the wide receiver position for Oregon on one side will be Keanon Lowe (5-9, 181), a sophomore from Jesuit High School in the Portland area. Lowe has played well for the Ducks in 2012 and has 17 catches for 193 yards and 2 touchdowns. Behind Lowe is Will Murphy (6-2, 193) a senior walk-on who had a little breakout performance against Washington State with 2 catches for 38 yards including a career long 29 yard reception. For the year, Murphy has 12 catches for 126 yards scoring his first career touchdown last weekend.
Starting opposite Lowe will be Josh Huff (5-11, 205). Huff played has played exception for two consecutive games notching his second consecutive 100 yard receiving performance against the Bears catching 5 passes for 109 yards and 3 touchdowns. For the year Huff now has 20 catches for 355 yards and 7 touchdowns. Behind Huff is Eric Dungy (6-1, 183) who started two games while Huff was injured. Through eight appearances Dungy has notched 5 receptions for 41 yards.
Daryle Hawkins (6-4, 202) gets the start at the third wideout position. Hawkins, an all-purpose athlete the prior two seasons for the Ducks has nestled into his starting role well with 20 catches for 175 yards and 3 touchdowns. Behind Hawkins is freshman Bralon Addison (5-10, 189) a freshman from Texas. Despite coming off the bench, Addison is the second leading receiver on the team with 22 catches for 243 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Though listed as a running back on the depth chart De'Anthony Thomas frequently lines up in a slot receiver position for the Ducks. He has been the target of most defensive efforts this season but has still managed to lead the team in catches and receiving yards with 37 receptions for 378 yards and 4 touchdowns.
In addition, the Ducks also have Dwayne Stanford (6-5, 195) another freshman who has contributed with 11 catches for 106 yards.
Oregon has a speed advantage at this position as well as more experienced depth. The Duck receivers are also considered some of the best blocking receivers in the nation and have a decisive edge over the Cardinal
Stanford: The Cardinal are a run oriented team that like to pound the ball up the middle and control the clock. Stepfan Taylor (5-11, 215) gets the start at running back. At 215 pounds, he seems to run bigger than his size. Taylor has three consecutive thousand yard seasons; a feat no one in Stanford history had accomplished until now. For the season Taylor has 225 carries for 1061 yards and 9 touchdowns. Taylor is also dangerous out of the backfield and is the second leading receiver on the team with 28 catches for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns. The primary reserve at running back is Anthony Wilkerson (6-1, 218) a junior bulldozer. For the season Wilkerson has 30 carries for 140 yards.
Being a power team, Stanford also uses Ryan Hewitt (6-4, 248) from a fullback position. Hewitt does not figure into the statistics much with just 6 carries for 14 yards, but he has been known to be dangerous out of the backfield with 9 catches for 89 yards and one touchdown.
Oregon: Kenjon Barner (5-11, 192) had shown he could be a workhorse back last season against Arizona State. Against USC he showed he can be a Heisman contender as well. Barner carried the ball 38 times for 321 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns. The yards are a school record easily surpassing the 288 yards former team mate LaMichael James put up against Arizona last season. Barner injured his thum early in the Cal game but managed to play through the pain. So far this season Barner has 199 carries for 1360 yards (6.8 ypc) and 19 rushing touchdowns. He has good hands out of the backfield with 18 catches for 219 yards and 1 touchdown.
Behind Barner will be De'Anthony Thomas. Despite a limited number of carries, Thomas still manages to excite the crowd just about every time he touches the ball. So far through ten games, Thomas has 66 carries for 521 yards. Despite teams keying specifically on him during conference play, Thomas is still averaging an incredible 7.9 yards per carry. He has scored 7 rushing touchdowns this season.
Providing a little more security is true freshman Byron Marshall. After a solid debut against Arkansas State, Marshall showed great improvements in his running over the past several games. So far this season, in six appearances, Marshall has 79 carries for 417 yards and 4 more rushing touchdowns.
Oregon created even more depth with the addition of tight end Colt Lyerla dropping back into the backfield and carrying the ball. Lyerla has 13 carries for 77 yards and one touchdown over the last four games for Oregon.
With Thomas and Barner, Oregon will have the edge on just about every opponent they face this season. This week is no different. The emergence of Marshall as a third back provides the Ducks with more security and depth. Stanford relies almost exclusively on the workhorse legs of just one running back. Though Taylor is a good running back, he does not have the explosiveness of the Duck running backs.
Stanford: The Cardinal start David Yankey (6-5, 301) at the left tackle position. Yankey started all 13 games a year ago for Stanford at guard moving to tackle this season. Behind him will be Andrus Peat (6-7, 308), a true freshman with some experience late in games this season.
At the left guard position Khalil Wilkes (6-3, 291) gets the start. Originally projected as a "depth" player this season, Wilkes has been needed to start. Wilkes had just four appearances last season, mostly in mop up duty. Showing a little lack of depth, Yankey will be the back up at this position.
Starting at right tackle is Cameron Fleming (6-6, 314) a redshirt sophomore who started 11 games last season. Fleming was a freshman All-America and honorable mention all Pac-12 last season. Playing behind Fleming is Kyle Murphy (6-7, 280) another true freshman with limited playing time this season.
At the right guard position, Kevin Danser (6-6, 298) gets the start. The redshirt junior did not make his first start until this season. Behind Danser is Joshua Garnett (6-5, 325) another true freshman with limited experience.
Oregon: Jake Fisher (6-6, 294), a sophomore who appeared in all 13 games as a true freshman last season holds down the right tackle position. Behind him is Everett Benyard (6-7, 305) a junior with 14 appearances last season including at least 20 snaps in four of those appearances.
On the other side is redshirt Freshman Tyler Johnston (6-6, 292) making his tenth start for the Ducks. Behind Johnstone will be Kyle Long (6-7, 311) a senior transfer who engaged in a spirited battle with Johnstone for the starting position during fall camp.
Inside at guard, Oregon starts Kyle Long. Long played impressively the last two weekends and earns his third start for the Ducks. Behind Long will be Hamani Stevens (6-3, 298) a redshirt sophomore who played in 8 games last season.
At the other guard will be Ryan Clanton (6-5, 305) a senior who appeared in 11 games last season for Oregon. Behind him is Nick Cody (6-5, 310) a senior who started all 13 games last season but is battling back from an undisclosed injury.
Center will be manned by Hroniss Grasu (6-3, 294) a sophomore from Crespi High School. Grasu has started every game of his Duck career (24) and is the anchor of the line. Behind Grasu on the depth chart is Karrington Armstrong (6-3, 290) a junior who appeared in 8 games last season for the Ducks.
Stanford is a good rushing team, but not great. They are about middle of the conference running the ball. Their 166.2 yards per game on the ground are middle of the pack in the conference and they gain about 4.4 yards per carry. The line does a good job protecting the quarterback allowing just 14 sacks on the season, tied for the conference lead.
The rushing numbers pale in comparison with the Ducks staggering total of 325.1 yards per game and 6.1 yards per carry. The Ducks average over 100 more yards per game on the ground than their next closest conference opponent and almost double what Stanford averages per game. The Ducks 6.1 yards per carry bests the second best number in the conference (Arizona) by nearly a yard per carry. On the season the Ducks offensive line has allowed just 14 sacks as well, tied for the conference lead with Stanford and USC.
Stanford : Despite the loss of Coby Fleener, the Stanford tight ends seem to be a mile deep. Though listed as a backup, Zach Ertz (6-6, 252) is the leading receiver for the Cardinal with 47 catches for 641 yards and 5 touchdowns. Listed as the starter, Levine Toilolo (6-8, 265) has 19 receptions for 360 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Oregon: Colt Lyerla returned from a leg injury against USC. Despite not catching many passes this season, Lyerla has been dominant at times. His presence makes the opponent account for his incredible athletic ability and he has grown as a blocker this season. After another great performance last weekend Lyerla now has 16 catches for 260 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Pharoah Brown (6-4, 251) will be the back up this week. For the season the true freshman has 2 receptions for 42 yards. Brown made his first start against the Buffaloes with Lyerla out due to a leg injury.
Converted defensive end Koa Ka'ai (6-4, 251), the best blocker of the group has shown good hands in his limited early opportunities with 2 catches for 18 yards, but returned to defense last weekend with a defensive line depleted by injury.
Stanford is practically a tight end factory right now. With little speed at the outside positions, the ground and pound oriented Cardinal offense relies heavily on their tight ends and it shows with their production. Ertz is deceptively athletic and can make big plays in the seam.
Stanford: The Stanford offense took a step back with the loss of Andrew Luck; especially early. The Cardinal showed some signs against the Beavers last weekend bringing Kevin Hogan in as the starter. Nonetheless, this is a team that is smack dab in the middle of the conference offensively. The Cardinal average 166.2 yards per game on the ground, good for sixth in the conference. Throwing the ball Stanford average 211.9 yards per game, just ninth in conference. The Cardinal are also sixth in scoring at 29.1 points per game.
In the red-zone Stanford is third best in the Pac-12 scoring 81.6 percent of the time. Their redzone touchdown ration, though, is just 57.9 percent which is the third worst ration in the Pac-12.
Oregon: After the past two games, there is little doubt about just how good the Oregon offense is this season. The superlatives cannot stop about this team. To rush for over 400 yards and pass for over 300 in the same game is simply ridiculous. There is really no better word. Oregon leads the conference in just about every statistical category, rushing offense, total offense, yards per carry, points per game, red-zone offense, fourth down conversions; the list of offensive accolades could spread out for several pages.
Just know that at over 325 yards rushing per game and 54.8 points per game, the Duck starting offense is virtually unstoppable this season.
This is a clear edge for the Ducks. Oregon is better at every offensive position; bigger, faster and stronger. The Ducks have shown that they can score on anyone while Stanford is middle of the Pac-12 at 29.1 points per game; that's just over half of what the Ducks put on the board.
There are very few conceivable methods in which the Cardinal can score anywhere near what Oregon can score. Offensively, Stanford simply does not have the firepower to stay close.
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